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Housatonic Council

Edmund D. Strang Scout Reservation

 

For many people in the Valley - especially Derby - Ed Strang was Mr. Scout in the Valley symbolizing a lifetime of dedication to Valley youth and the Boy Scouts.

 

Pioneer Scouter and the oldest Cubmaster in the United States, Edmund D. Strang died May 31, 1995, at the Hospice in Branford after a brief illness. He was the husband of Caroline Booth Strang.  Son of the late Edmund J. and Anna Strang, Ed was born in Derby, March 8, 1910 and was a lifelong resident. A graduate of Derby High School, he was captain of the football and basketball teams.

 

Ed joined Boy Scout Troop 3 in 1922 and became Troop 3's second Eagle Scout in 1927. In 1927 he was asked by Scoutmaster Rev. Alfred Budd to organize a program for the younger brothers of the scouts.Ed Strang Cub Pack 3 was formed three years before Cub Scouts became an official program in the United States. Ed served as Assistant Cubmaster and Cubmaster for 68 years and was the longest tenured Cubmaster and oldest Cubmaster in the US.

 

Having lost his father to the 1919 influenza outbreak, Ed was able to attend Scout Camp in 1922 at Camp Irving only due to a campership he received from a local businessman. Ed so thoroughly enjoyed summer camp that he stayed the whole summer, returning the following years as a member of the camp staff and eventually serving as the Camp Director of Camp Irving for many years.

 

While serving as Cubmaster, Ed also became Scoutmaster of Troop 3 and held that position from 1935 to 1960. Ed served as the troop coordinator and held the weekly Patrol Leaders meetings at his home for more than 50 years. During his tenure as Scoutmaster Ed led Troop 3 Scouts at the 1937, 1950, 1953 and 1957 National Scout Jamborees. In 1939 Ed helped organize Explorer Post 33 for the older scouts. He led groups of 40 Explorer Scouts on 3 week trips to Europe on four occasions in addition to numerous trips to Canada and New York City. Under his encouragement and example 194 Troop 3 and Post 33 Scouts achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.

 

During World War II Ed was drafted into the US Army at age 33 and he served two years in Hungary as a Cryptographer in the allied Control Commission. During that time he helped form George Washington Boy Scout Troop 1 in Budapest. During this time he also delivered a letter from Pope Pius XII to Cardinal Mescenti in which the Roman Catholic Church denounced communism.

 

Upon returning to Derby after the War Ed served on the Governor's Committee for handicapped youth and in 1949 he was instrumental in bringing Little League to the Valley, serving on the Derby Little League's Board of Directors since its inception. He coached the Laurels for 12 years and 3 league championships.

 

A lifelong member of the Derby United Methodist Church, Ed served as Sunday School Superintendent in the 1930's and was a 30 year trustee. He was a member of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, He was Past President and secretary of the Derby Shelton Rotary Club and was a Paul Harris Fellow. He was also on the Board of Directors of the Derby Veteran's Community Center, Oak Cliff Cemetary and he was a past vice-president and 50 year member of the Housatonic Council BSA Executive Board. He was a 60 year member of the Housatonic Council Camping Committee, serving as it chairman since 1955. He was a co-founder of the Housatonic Scout Reservation which opened in 1961. The 186 acre camp located in Goshen was renamed the Edmund D. Strang Scout Reservation in 1990.

 

Ed organized an exchange scout program with the Woodlands Verndun, Canada Scout Troop for over 40 years and for the past 20 years he coordinated exchanges with scouts from Derby and Peterborough, England and Limerick, Ireland. Having retired in 1975 after 42 years as Derby Office Manager of United Illuminating, he enjoyed travelling with his wife to England to visit his many Scouting friends.

 

For 70 years he served as Interlocutor of the Pack 3, Troop 3 and Explorer Post 33 annual Scout Minstrel Show. In addition to Interlocutor, he was the manager, director and the driving force behind the show for 50 years.

 

Ed has been honored by the National Boy Scouts of America many times having received the Silver Beaver Award, the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, the Spurgeon Award for Exploring, the James E. West Fellowship and the Silver Antelope Award, which was presented to him by Governor John Rowland on behalf of the BSA's Northeast Region. Ed was awarded Regent for Life by the National Eagle Scout Association .

He was also honored by the community for his service to youth having received the first Valley Lawyers Association's Liberty Award, the first Chamber of Commerce Gold Seal Award, the Valley United Way's Flynn Humanitarian Award, Derby-Shelton Boys & Girls Club Man of the Year, Derby Senior Center's Man of the Year and the Nutmeg Athletic Club Alumni award.

 

The Methodist Church awarded Ed the Cross and Flame Award and he was the first non-Catholic in Connecticut awarded the Bronze Pelican Award by the Archdiocese of Hartford. Strang Road was named in his honor and his portrait was hung in the Derby Aldermanic Chambers following the Ed Strang Day celebration. The city sponsored event featured movie actor Brian Dennehy, who returned to Derby to honor his former Cubmaster.

 

Upon the awarding of the Silver Beaver Award to Ed in 1939, the late Lucien Desaulniers, Housatonic Council President and former editor of the Evening Sentinel, said of Ed, "Ed is the type of leader who just doesn't happen very often, and there can be no doubt but that Ed Strang is a man devoted to a cause, fortunate for us that cause is the Boy Scouts of America."

 

Frank Gates Memorial Dining Hall

 

Frank Gates was the last in a long line in the Gates family, who became quite wealthy. What was interesting about them is they became wealthy through business ventures in old Derby - as in what is now East Derby.


They never really invested in Birmingham. There was a Gates Hall in East Derby that was pretty much the central gathering place for people in the mid 19th century in old Derby.

Frank was the Sherriff of New Haven County at one point. The family lived in the same site, at the corner of Derby Avenue and Bank Street for over 170 years. It evolved into Derby's most beautiful mansion. Frank and his brother Ross never married, and when Frank died he left in his will that he wanted no one outside the family living in the house. Since he was the last Gates family member, this meant the house was torn down shorly after his death a little over 50 years ago. He left most of his family's assets to the many organizations he was involved with in the Valley, with the lion's share going to the New Haven Foundation, in order to benefit charitable organizations in the Valley area.

It is interesting that his family's monument at Oak Cliff Cemetery, which could have been huge, is actually modest compared to others, though it contains several pillars in it, which I think is highly symbolic as the family really was one the pillars of the community for many generations. His charity was legendary, and a lot of organizations, from the Humphreys House Association (who maintained the building before Derby Historical took it over in 1961) to Housatonic Council BSA, to Highland Golf Course, to attracting the Yale rowing team to Derby, to helping the Military Order of the Purple Heart get on their feet, he was pretty much involved in everything.

 

The Frank Gates Dining Hall at Housatonic Council's Edmund D. Strang Scout Reservation was funded in part by the Gates Foundation portion of the New Haven Foundation in 1961. In the 1930s and 40s Gates was a Committeeman of Troop 3 Derby, Honorary President of Housatonic Council and a representative on the National BSA Executive Board. He attended the 1937 National Scout Jamboree in Washington DC and took color movies there. Frank Gates also donated an ambulance to Derby, England during WWII but it never made it as the ship it was on was bombed and sunk.
 

Katharine Matthies Foundation Amphitheater

The Katharine Matthies Foundation is the legacy of Miss Katharine Matthies, a lifelong Seymour resident and benefactor. She was born August 26, 1903, the daughter of George E. Matthies and Annie Wooster Matthies. Members of her family were leading industrialists in Seymour throughout much of the past century. They played a major role in the economic development of the Town of Seymour.

 

Miss Matthies lived a very active life and had a wide range of interests. She collected books, stamps, coins, paintings, jewelry and Netsukes. Among her pursuits were photography, trout fishing and an enjoyment of the outdoors. She was very active in the national, state and local societies of the Daughters of the American Revolution. In addition, she served for many years on the Seymour Board of Library Directors. She was involved with many community and charitable activities and supported many youth programs, like Housatonic Council BSA. Katharine Matthies was an extremely generous individual and benefactor of her community. The Foundation continues that spirit of philanthropy that marked her lifetime.

 

The Foundation, established in 1987 following the death of Miss Matthies, was left in trust in her estate to support programs that meet social and community needs. Foundation assets now total over $17,000,000. Since its’ creation, the Foundation has awarded grants totaling more than $5.5 million to fund projects that serve the towns of Seymour, Oxford, Beacon Falls, Ansonia, Shelton and Derby.